Game Preview: Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons

After a tough loss in Jacksonville last week, the Hawks return to the friendly confines of Qwest Field. This week they host the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch from last season, when the Seahawks beat the Falcons on the last play of the game and cinched up their first NFC West title.

What: First regular season home game
When: Sunday, September 18th, 1 p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees


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Falcons Key Players:

QB Michael Vick: The face of the Falcons' franchise is the mercurial Vick, who can amaze with his physical talents, but still seems to lack the decision-making skills to be feared as a passer right now. Vick has a cannon for an arm, quick feet and the speed to keep defensive coordinators up at night and he finally seems to have a solid set of wideouts to throw to. He also has an excellent running game, tops in the league in 2004, and the team rarely has to call on him to win games. Last week against the Eagles, Vick completed 12 of 23 passes for 157 yards, one interception and no touchdowns. He also ran 11 times for 68 yards and a touchdown.

RB Warrick Dunn: Dunn continues to amaze. He is slight of build for a starting running back (5-9, 175), but he remains a threat throughout the game whether by running or receiving. The Falcons love to get Dunn in space, allowing him to use his excellent quickness to beat defenders and make them pay for dropping in to zones. Dunn passed the 7,000 career rushing yards mark last week and shows no signs of slowing down. It also helps that he has a bruising back behind him in T.J. Duckett, who can take the short-yardage carries and keep Dunn from taking unnecessary hits.

TE Alge Crumpler: When he came into the league in 2001 Crumpler was thought to be one of the most athletic tight ends in the league. While he had the natural gifts to be an outstanding tight end, that didn't always compute into being a standout. That has changed over the past two seasons as he has become a favorite target of Vick's in the passing game. He set career highs in 2004 with 48 for 774 yards and six touchdowns. The catches and yardage were also franchise highs for a tight end. Keep an eye on Crumpler in the red zone, Vick loves to find him in the middle of the zone defenses.

DT Rod Coleman: Defensive end Patrick Kerney gets most of the ink because he is the "sack-master" along the line, but Coleman seems to be the man in the middle that helps the entire front seven go. Coleman is super-quick and is an excellent pass-rusher in his own right. He is adept at splitting the double-teams offenses throw at him and he has the strength to hold strong at the point-of-attack.

CB DeAngelo Hall: Hall really seems to have taken the step from promising rookie to shut-down corner in less than a year. Hall blanketed Terrell Owens all over the field on Monday night and showed the attitude and swagger of a much more experienced player. He has excellent speed and is strong enough to match up with any wideout in the league. Hall is also an excellent tackler, able to support the well when teams decide to run to his side.

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Key Matchups:

Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson vs. Hall: Hall will follow Jackson all over the field. The Falcons are not shy about lining Hall up one-on-one and trusting him to win that battle. Jackson has shown excellent hands so far this season and had a good day last week against underrated Jacksonville CB Rashean Mathis. Jackson cannot beat Hall physically, so he needs to rely on his route-running abilities and head coach Mike Holmgren will scheme to get the Hawks' best playmaker at wideout open.

Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. the Falcons defense: Hasselbeck had one of the worst games of his career against Jacksonville with three bad interceptions. The Falcons' defense is a ball-hawking, aggressive defense that has the type of playmakers to make it a long day for Hasselbeck and the Hawks' offense. Look for Holmgren to do his best to get Hasselbeck in a rhythm early with short and intermediate throws and then hand the ball to RB Shaun Alexander to keep the Falcons off balance.

Kerney vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones: Kerney is a brute as a pass-rusher. He has a plethora of rush moves and he seems "hell-bent" on getting to the quarterback no matter what it takes on every play. Jones manhandles defensive ends on a regular basis and is one of the best tackles in the league. He's adept at pass-blocking and run-blocking. This will be an excellent matchup to watch throughout the entire game.

Vick, Dunn and Duckett vs. the Seahawks linebackers: The Falcons use a three-headed monster in their running game. Dunn is the jitter-bug, Duckett is bulldozer. Vick is the speed merchant. As mentioned above, the Falcons like to get Dunn in space and let his open-field running skills take over. Duckett will just blast away all day hoping to wear the defense down. The Hawks have improved their overall speed at linebacker and, as a unit, they played relatively well in Jacksonville last week before wilting in the 120 degree heat. Look for rookie Leroy Hill to see increased playing time and for D.D. Lewis to be matched up with Dunn when he runs a pass-route. Hill will also be expected to pressure Vick on blitzes and dogs. Lofa Tatupu and Jamie Sharper will also be counted on to stuff plays quickly.

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News and Notes: Vick is the winningest quarterback in Falcons history with a 24-12-1 (.662) record; Falcons head coach Jim Mora played defensive back at the University of Washington (1980-1983) and attended Interlake high school in Bellevue; Alexander's 73 yards last week put him over 6,000 yards for his career, making him only the third runner in team history to surpass that mark. Chris Warren (6,706 yards) and Curt Warner (6,705) are the other two; Jackson, who has 35 career touchdown catches, needs two to surpass Darryl Turner (36) and Joey Galloway (36) to move into second place in Seahawks history behind Steve Largent (100); Seahawks lead series 7-2.

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Injuries:

Seattle:
OUT: T Floyd Womack (triceps)
DOUBTFUL: T Wayne Hunter (knee); TE Itula Mili (stomach)
QUESTIONABLE: WR D.J. Hackett (knee)


Atlanta:
OUT: CB Kevin Mathis (Knee/placed on IR)
QUESTIONABLE: Allen Rossum (hamstring)


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Prediction: Falcons 26 – Seattle 24

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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